Public pools reopen amid pandemic

  • CHELSEA JENSEN/West Hawaii Today Nolan Morton dives in Monday at the Kona Community Aquatic Center in Kailua-Kona. The facility was one of six Hawaii County public pools that reopened on Monday.

  • CHELSEA JENSEN/West Hawaii Today Pam Sullivan, left, and Roy, right, complete the screening process to use the Kona Community Aquatic Center on Monday.

  • CHELSEA JENSEN/West Hawaii Today Kawena Haserot swims the butterfly stroke Monday afternoon at Kona Community Aquatic Center in Kailua-Kona.

Hawaii County’s public swimming pools reopened Monday — and residents were quick to get back in the water.

From dedicated swim team members getting in lap time to kupuna enjoying some water aerobics, the Kona Community Aquatic Center was bustling with action — that is as much action as permitted amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

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“I signed up this morning,” said Pam Sullivan as she waited with friend, Roy, to go through the screening process to enter the pool Monday afternoon for the first time since public pools closed in March.

While the pool was off-limits, Sullivan, a lifelong Big Island resident, said she’s been swimming in the ocean to get exercise. But the pool makes it a lot easier to get some laps in during the workday.

“I like to do my laps here when I’m working,” Sullivan said.

Six of the county’s nine public swimming pools reopened Monday per Mayor Harry Kim’s June 25 emergency rule, which allowed for the reopening of bars last month. Per the rule, some county campsites also reopened Monday with additional campsites to open Aug. 1.

Each of the public swimming pools that reopened is operating on a modified schedule with interim rules and use procedures in place.

Use is on a first-come, first-served basis, with individual lap swimming at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. on specific days. Users will be permitted one 45-minute time slot per day.

They must also sign up at the facility, a requirement that irritated some Monday, with one man exclaiming “What a joke!” as he walked back to his vehicle after being turned away.

In order to enter any of the now open facilities, a person must be free of COVID-19 symptoms; have his or her temperature screened to make sure it is not higher than 100.4 degrees; not have open wounds or have had a contagious disease within 14 days, including diarrhea; wear a face mask; provide his or her full name and contact information; and sanitize hands.

Inside the facility, patrons must adhere to social distancing, wear a mask at all times (except when swimming) and shower at designated areas. The bleachers and locker rooms are closed and off-limits, and bathrooms are only available upon request. Post-swim showering is not permitted.

In the water, only individual lap swimming is permitted with reasonable accommodations provided for those with disabilities. Swimmers can only be accompanied by one caregiver, parent/guardian or coach. Team/club use is not permitted.

In West Hawaii, swim days for the Kona Community Aquatic Center in Kailua-Kona and Konawaena Swimming Pool in Kealakekua are Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The Kohala Swimming Pool in Kapaau will be open for swimming on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

In East Hawaii, swim days for the Charles “Sparky” Kawamoto Swim Stadium in Hilo are Monday, Wednesday and Friday while the Pahoa Community Aquatic Center in Pahoa will be open for swimming on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. In Ka‘u, the Pahala Swimming Pool will host swim days on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

The county said it will continue to evaluate procedures as well as the adherence to modified pool rules to ensure the safety of staff and swimmers.

“Available days/hours may be expanded in the coming weeks provided COVID-19 public health conditions and other variables are amenable to such,” according to a statement.

The county’s three other public swimming pools remain closed. The Honokaa Swimming Pool remains closed because of active construction. The NAS Swimming Pool is closed as it is serving as a site for emergency homeless housing. Laupahoehoe Swimming Pool will reopen after water clarity issues are resolved.

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For more information, contact the county Department of Parks and Recreation Aquatics Section at 961-8740.

Email Chelsea Jensen at cjensen@westhawaiitoday.com.

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